Category Archives: Orchestral Works

Kalkadungu – co-written with William Barton

William Barton and Matthew Hindson

William Barton and I are having a new composition premiered by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House on 2-4 April, 2008.

The work is called Kalkadungu, which is the name of the tribe from which William originates. It’s scored for a soloist playing electric guitar, singing and didjeridu (obviously William is performing this part!) with orchestra.

It was very interesting being part of a co-commission, that is, the piece was written both by William and myself. This approach may be common in the popular and jazz music traditions, but I can’t think of many examples from classical music where this happened (the orchestral works of Paul McCartney perhaps). Writing an orchestral work is such an intricate task that it doesn’t normally lend itself to compositional collaboration, but in this case we used a common starting point: an Aboriginal chant William wrote when he was just 15 years old (listen to one of William’s pieces based on this chant here).

Programmatically, the piece is based around the events and ramifications of the troubled history between the Kalkadungu tribe and European Settlers. The Kalkadungu people were a fierce tribe of warriors who conducted a campaign of guerilla warfare for 15 years, before being decimated in battle by the combined troopers of Queensland in 1889 at Battle Mountain, near Mount Isa.

For more extensive programme notes, click here.

Kalkadungu was commissioned by Maggie Gray and Roger Allan. Australia is lucky to have philanthropists such as Maggie and Roger who support the needs of indigenous people in our community. They are both heavily involved in indigenous affairs and have recently started a company called “Indigenous Capital” that provides capital for indigenous projects and subsequently returns all profits to the indigenous community.

Lament (1996/2002)

for cello and piano
also for cello (or bassoon) and orchestra
also for viola and piano

duration: 8-10 minutes

Promethean Editions version for cello and piano, including score preview.
Faber Music publishing details of version for cello (or bassoon) and orchestra.
Faber Music publishing details of version for viola and piano.


Version for cello and orchestra

Programme Notes

Lament was written not long after the memorial service for the victims of the Port Arthur massacre of May 1996. It is not so much a direct response to this event in particular, but rather an attempt to capture the feeling of immense sadness that was present at this, and indeed every other, funeral service.

The cello part has been ‘set’ to the text of The Lord is my Shepherd, a religious text that was used at the memorial service for the Port Arthur victims.

notes by Matthew Hindson.


…It bore many resemblances to young Australian composer Matthew Hindson’s Lament for cello and piano, a memorial to the victims of the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. Both opened gradually from poignant themes which soon were punctuated by wilder, more anguished stabs, finally returning to the quiet calm with which they began.

After Liebermann’s theme from his opera The Picture of Dorian Gray was announced, Isserlis moved into the central lyrical section, an outpouring of full-bodied resonance from his Stradivarius. The program notes stated Hindson chose The Lord is My Shepherd for his motto, but it sounded more like a medieval Kyrie chant, beautifully shaped by the players at every manifestation. – Patricia Kelly, Courier Mail, 9 May 2002.

This year, Musica Viva’s featured composer is Matthew Hindson, best known for his fusions of serious and popular, minimalist and techno. On this night, we were given his Lament, a short piece written in the shadow of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre: as the composer himself has pointed out, certainly a change of pace.

…Hindson’s simply constructed elegy was juxtaposed with the massive Rachmaninov G minor Sonata, given a reading of great power and passion…

Hindson’s short piece moves a little to the left of Peter Sculthorpe’s Requiem for cello and, like that work, finds it hard to avoid reminiscences of Bloch’s Schelomo.

Like the Liebermann sonata, the Australian composer’s Lament uses a recurring motive, but employs the device with less self-regard and an attractive, touching naivete of utterance. – Clive O’Connell, The Age, 15 May 2002.

CD Recording Available?

The cello and orchestra version is available on ABC Classics, or streaming through Spotify as per the above link.

Other Information

This work featured in the dance work Ellipse, choreographed by Graeme Murphy for the Sydney Dance Company.

Ictalurus Punctatis (2008)

for amplified cello and orchestra (picc.1.2(II=ca).2.1.cbsn – 4231 – timp – perc(1) – harp – strings)

duration: 7 minutes

Faber Music publishing details

Audio Excerpts

Not yet available

Programme Notes

This work was commissioned by the Adelaide Cello Festival, premiered by Li Wei Qin (cello) and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, cond. Arvo Volmer, 11 April 2008.

This movement for amplified cello and orchestra forms the first part of an intended larger-scale concerto based around the lifecycle of a rock star. The first movement, “Ictalurus Punctatis”, refers to the early, ‘out-there’ stage of the musician’s career, with ostentatious virtuosity and a seemingly-limitless reserve of theatricality, grand gestures and power.

The title, “Ictalurus Punctatis”, has two intended meanings in this context. First, being a Latin term it could quite plausibly be the name for a 1970s heavy metal or glam rock band. Second, the term itself is the Latin name for the Channel Catfish, an animal that lives in dark, fetid places waiting for detritus to fall their way. It is an animal dependent upon the actions of others for its survival. This seemed a good metaphor to describe the myriad of hangers-on surrounding the rockstar in his/her early, glory years – the insatiable media, managers and promoters, drug-dealers. Hence the orchestra provides something of an ominous backdrop behind the glittering extraversion and frenetic ‘lifestyle’ of the solo cello part.

notes by Matthew Hindson


CD Recording Available?

    Not yet.

Other Information

This movement will form the first part of a larger intended amplfied cello concerto, “Rockstar”.

Dangerous Creatures (2009)

a suite for orchestra ( – 4231 – timp – perc(2) – harp – strings)

duration: 21 minutes

Faber Music publishing details

Audio Excerpts
Excerpt from Big Black Bear (first movement)

Programme Notes

1. Big Black Bear
2. Spiders
3. Jellyfish
4. Army Ants
5. Rhinoceros Tango
6. Scorpions
7. Humans

This work was commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and premiered by them on 8 March, 2009, cond. David Angus.

This piece was conceived as a contemporary Carnival of the Animals, except filled with animals that can hurt or harm us. The animals range from the enormous (Big Black Bears) to the tiny (Spiders, Army Ants, Scorpions). Each movement depicts the animals in question, and some of the movements depict pictorial interactions between humans and the animals in question: for example, waking at night to find a scorpion in one’s tent. And speaking of humans, the work concludes with the most dangerous creature of all.

notes by Matthew Hindson


CD Recording Available?

Not yet.

Other Information